"O'Reilly Factor special"
June 6, 2002
by Lynne Jordal Martin


NEW YORK -- First came the terror attacks in September. Then came the outpouring of support and money for the victims and their families. And then came Bill O’Reilly asking the hard questions.

The host of the FOX News Channel’s hit program The O’Reilly Factor  was the first to demand answers from officials at The American Red Cross, United Way and other groups about where the money many Americans had donated to their organizations was really going. He also asked when the people who came to be known as the "9/11 families" would actually receive some of the billions of dollars that had been collected on their behalf. 

When the answers were squishy and vague, O’Reilly created a firestorm in Hollywood by demanding accountability, not only from the charities but also from the celebrities who used their fame to get ordinary citizens to open their hearts -- and wallets -- for the victims, despite their own private actions.

"The day after September 11th, I called six celebrities myself, crying, in the morning," Rosie O'Donnell told O'Reilly. "I said, 'I want to throw light into the dark. Give me a million dollars -- and we'll make a $20 million donation. All of them said no ... in America, you should expect your millionaires to give millions -- especially if they're going to stand on TV and ask the peasants for pennies."

O'Reilly draws on his experiences with the Sept. 11 charity controversy in his latest FOX network special. More than eight months after the terror attacks, the Fox News anchor offers viewers a unique look at celebrity activism. The hour-long broadcast is called An O'Reilly Factor Special: O'Reilly vs. Hollywood. It airs Friday at 9 p.m. EDT/PST.

There's no question that popular entertainers in America occupy a powerful place in its culture. Famous actors, television stars and musicians routinely raise money for political causes and politicians; they attract attention by speaking out about controversial issues like abortion, gun control or gay adoption. And when an entertainer embraces or mocks the president or some other politician, it always gets noticed. 

But is all this power and influence being used to do good, or is it being misused by people more interested in their own success than the welfare of their country? O'Reilly descends on Hollywood and finds some unusual answers. Among the celebrities featured in the broadcast are O'Donnell, Ben Stiller, Janeane Garafolo, Billy Baldwin and Jon Stewart.

Stewart, the host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show , thinks that much of young America doesn't care about what activist-actors have to say. "The majority of activist celebrities are not within the realm of young people's scope," he told O'Reilly. "You know, I don't think the kids at the raves are going 'I'll tell you, Cher and Alec Baldwin -- they speak to me.'"


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